Creating beauty, restoring dignity

2013-06-29 00:00

A LOCAL Durban business entrepreneur and a Kenyan dress designer have joined their creative energies to present a fashion collection for the Africa Fashion Week in New York.

The Rekibisha range is a collection of dress designs made with bold African print fabrics combined with the rich detail and texture of Indian saris.

Kanchana Moodliar, who runs the organisation Saris for Good Karma, collects old and unwanted saris for her project, which aims to teach disadvantaged women how to sew and to give them fabrics they can use to make products.

The project has been running successfully for more than two years. She also started a business to import luxury hairpieces for women who prefer to use human hair rather than synthetic weaves.

While promoting the Osheo hair range, she met Kenyan artist and designer Liz Ogumbo in Johannesburg, and they had the idea to combine the African and Asian fabrics to make a unique product.

Their range, Rekebisha, which means to restore in Swahili, will create job opportunities for the women who have learnt how to sew. Moodliar believes that the range will put South Africa on the map, but their immediate problem was finding funds to send Ogumba to the U.S. for the African Fashion Week in July. Moodliar came up with the concept of donations based on the Mala beads.

Moodliar said: “We thought of a cool crowd-funding model, where we use the sacred mala beads concept and get everyone to donate just R108, as opposed to asking for large sums. If 1 000 people donate R108, we will be able to cover all costs and get the line ready for production and export.”

Many cultures have sacred beads that are used as a source of meditation: Catholics pray using the rosary and in Indian culture the mala beads are commonly associated with this practice. Each string of mala beads has 108 beads, which is how the sum of R108 was decided.

Moodliar said: “This would go a long way to helping us realise a dream and giving disadvantaged women the chance to get involved in making accessories for this fabulous range.”

Ogumbo, an artist and performer who started designing dresses as a hobby, said she was “blown away” by the beauty and textures of the saris. She said: “I am using the donated saris, together with traditional African fabric such as leso and kitenges from northern and eastern Africa.”

The Kenyan launched her Johannesburg store three years ago, marketing Afro-chic style to the fashion-savvy urban woman. Ogumbo explained the inspiration for the range. “What we wear expresses the belief that every day should be celebrated as an opportunity to make our mark. My passion is for women and how a woman is perceived by society as she constantly evolves.”

Ogumbo says her designs are sleek and timeless, and yet the fabrics are bold and provocative. “When I saw the saris I fell in love. The beauty and uniqueness of each fabric is out of this world. The colours and textures are so rich and intricate. I was immediately inspired and went ahead to create the Rekibisha range.”

Ogumbo says that once she has designed a garment, she teaches other women how to cut and sew and replicate the details. “This way, we enable work sustainability within the community as we are able to bring in work to local women through clothing orders.

“By giving disadvantaged women work opportunities and using the generosity of the women who have donated saris, we will be able to ‘fix’ broken spirits and help others with unrealised dreams through our fashion label.”

• To donate to the mala fund, contact carina@sarisforgoodkarma.

org or phone 031 837 3794.

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